From Oxford’s Gipsy Hill and Windsor’s Tinkers Lane to Worthing’s Romany Road, the historical contribution of Britain’s Gypsy, Romany and Traveller community is hinted at in place names across the south-east of England. The community has been in Britain for at least 500 years, but their history is often difficult to find.

Surrey’s travelling peoples have been here since the sixteenth century and Surrey History Centre holds a range of archives, photographs, and published works which illustrate the fact and fiction surrounding this community over the centuries.

Gypsies in early Surrey records.

Tracing travelling ancestors can be challenging, click here for Surrey History Centre’s guide to sources for tracing Gypsy, Romany and Traveller history in Surrey.

Front cover: <em>Their Day has Passed: Gypsies in Victorian and Edwardian Surrey</em>

Front cover: Their Day has Passed: Gypsies in Victorian and Edwardian Surrey

Find out more about the history of Surrey’s Gypsy community in Alan Wright’s ground-breaking book Their Day has Passed: Gypsies in Victorian and Edwardian Surrey. Alan’s research is based on a wealth of sources held at Surrey History Centre, many of which have never been used before in this area of research. The work features travelling families, encampments, and the community’s struggle with Surrey landowners in the era when travelling life was starting to come to an end. The book has been reviewed on the Guildford Dragon website at

Can you help?

Surrey History Centre is keen to hear from anyone who has material relating to Surrey’s travelling communities which can further research in this area. Please contact Surrey History Centre at [email protected] or 01483 518737.

Helpful links for tracing the history of the Gypsy, Romany and Traveller community in Surrey:

The Traveller Project

Funded by the European Union and the South East Museum Library and Archive Council, this project was designed to encourage greater access to the region’s museums, libraries and archives for the region’s large Gypsy and Traveller population. The project was the British contribution to a 3 year pan-European effort to remove barriers in accessing cultural heritage. Click here to read more about this project and the final report.

Travellers Tales DVD

The hidden heritage of Surrey’s largest ethnic minority is uncovered in this film celebrating the history and culture of Surrey’s Gypsy and Traveller community.

Copies of the project video are now available to view through YouTube. See the links below:

Part 1

Part 2

Fairgrounds in Surrey

See how fairgrounds coped during the Second World War.

Explore Philip Bradley’s unique fairground archive.

Traveller Education in Surrey

Click here to find out about Surrey’s first school for Gypsies at Hurtwood.

Roma Routes

An EU funded project made up of a partnership of heritage organisations and Roma representatives from Germany, Greece, Slovenia, Romania and the UK (Surrey Heritage). The project aimed to encourage intercultural dialogue between Roma and non Roma to promote European Roma cultural heritage. Click here to read more about the Roma Routes project. For more information contact Surrey Heritage, at Surrey History Centre.

Read an article on the Gypsy Holocaust by GRT experts Mike Doherty and Robert Dawson in Travellers’ Times online at

21 Responses to The Gypsy, Romany and Traveller community in Surrey



  2. Leanne Pritchard says:

    Hello, I am looking for any information about Joseph Rolfe, who was a convict transported on the Henry Tanner in 1834, from Surrey Gaol. Apparently he was a hawker, and his name is on a few Gypsy genealogy pages, but I haven’t been able to find out anything more about him. Any information would be greatly appreciated! I think he is my G G G grandfather.

  3. Leanne Pritchard says:

    Hello again, I have found out some more information about the Joseph Rolfe I’m looking for: he was born 27 Nov 1804, and baptised 30 Dec 1804 at All Saints, Wandsworth, to parents Richard and Ann. I also found a George Rolfe born 24 Dec 1807, baptised 31 Jan 1808; and a William James Rolfe born 16 Nov 1802, baptised 29 Dec 1802, both at All Saints with same parents’ names. Joseph Rolfe, my GGG grandfather, was convicted of housebreaking 18 Dec 1833 & sentenced to death, commuted to a life sentence & was then transported, a Surrey Gaol delivery. I would love to know more about his family, but have been unable to find any birth records or parents’ marriage records, only these baptism listings from All Saints. I would great appreciate any help or advice at all. Thank you so much!

  4. Nelson crittenden says:

    Hell if any ones interested I am a full blooded gypsy from Surrey any one interested in my story s ect I an available I was brn in 1940 in a gypsy horse drawn caravan lived in Kent Sussex Surrey buckinghamshire travelled all over this country Always willing to help other if I can my tel no is 07776058149 god luc god bless I now live in Walton on thames

    • Robyn says:

      Hello I live on Melbourne Australia and my grandfather’s father was a Romani gypsy surnames back from Barrow. They came from Surrey and Gravesend in Kent. My father has told me I am of true gypsy heritage. I wish to find out so much more and my ancestors. I embrace this ancesttory

    • James Hogg says:

      Hi Nelson,

      I have a William Crittenden in my family, born in Kent (potentially my G.G.G Grandfather). He had a child with a lady bearing the surname Maynard from Horsmonden. My family are Maynards, Smiths, Morris’, Neals, Gibbs and Coopers. Mainly from Horsmonden (Kent), Mitcham (Surrey) and Norfolk. I currently live in Surrey, however have no connection with this part of my family now! It would be good to talk. Do you have an email address I can contact you on?

      Kind Regards

    • Veronica says:

      Hi Nelson

      I’m very much interested in the Jones, Roberts, Ayres and Wilson lines – do you have any info re these families

      • Sheila Sewell says:

        Hi Veronica, My family ancestors were Roberts, Fagence, Hoadley and Bonwick. Jones were listed in a gypsy tent with some of my ancestors in 1891.It is said that families traveling together usually camped together. Sheila Fagence-Sewell

  5. Ann says:

    Hi, my great great great grandad William Lamb was possibly of romany/gypsy descent and appears in an 1881 hawker census on a gypsy site. I have yet to find some type of proof which I desperately want to do. He resided in Locks Fields, Newington, Surrey which I know alot of gypsies resided there. I also have family names of Bleach and Bowers in my family tree who are possibly romany/gypsy if anyone has these names in their family at all?

    Any information would be appreciated.


  6. maria says:

    Hi i am looking for a william stevens or stephens born 1930ish worked for bottoms fair around 1951 and lived in penge around the same time with he’s sister . any info would be helpful thankyou.

  7. Mark Osborne says:

    Hello, i am trying to trace any infomation concerning my great grandparants Tommy and Sarah Lee who lived in Owlsmoor near Camberley in Surrey or maybe Surrey. many thanks.

    • Shirley Chesterman says:

      Hi Mark
      I’m Shirley Sheens daughter who was Emma Lees daughter your granny Darkies sister. HOw can I help you ?

      • Jackie Blackman says:

        Hi Shirley,
        Emma Lee, who married Tommy Boswell and was mother to, amongst others, Darkis, was the sister of my 4x great grandmother Tieni/Dinah Lee, who married John Gregory. It would be lovely to hear from you.
        Best wishes

        [email protected]

  8. Jackie Blackman says:

    Hi my name is Jackie Blackman (nee Cooper). I have a spread sheet with several thousand references references to Gypsies, which I have collected over the years from research in the county records offices. The vast majority are of baptisms. These records are primarily from Surrey, Berkshire and Hampshire. I am happy to do look ups for you, although i am only usually able to do this at the weekends. Several years ago I had a website called Passing Through, which had all this information on it, so if you have previously looked at that site, I will not have anything else to tell you.

    My Dad’s paternal family were Romany Gypsies, although his dad was the last generation in our family to travel. My great grandparents settled in Claygate in Surrey and my great great grandparents settled in West Molesey, also in Surrey.

    My family names are Cooper (furthest back is to Samuel Cooper who was born abt 1794 in Eltham Kent and died in Norwood Surrey in 1856) I am particulary interested in finding Vanslow Cooper baptised in Ewell in 1825. This is NOT the Vanslow Cooper who was the son of Mathias/Matty Cooper.

    Gregory – descended from John Gregory born abt. 1812 and died 1897 – lived/travelled in Hampshire abs Berkshire. Died in Yateley. He was married to Dinah/Tieni Lee, daughter of Charles Lee.

    Lee – descended from James and Clevansi Lee – no further information about these two!

    Smith – Vanslow Cooper (see above) married Urania Smith January 1849 at St Paul’s Hammersmith. daughter of Joseph and Jane. She was baptised at Acton in 1826. She had a brother Major Smith, baptised in Hendon in1825 and a brother Henry born abt. 1828 who married Sarah Buckland January 1949 at, also at St Paul’s in Hammersmith. Other than this, I have no information about them.

    Not in my direct line, I have links with Ayres (many from Addlestone Surrey), Scott, Mills, Williams.

    My 3x great grandmother, Ellen Lee was born abt 1843 in Croydon. I strongly suspect she was the daughter of Jonathan /John Smith and Martha (aka Pat) Lee. Martha/Pat was the sister of Dinah/Tieni Lee, mother of Ellen’s husband Alfred Gregory. However, I have no hard evidence. On her marriage certificate Ellen’s father was John Smith and his occupation was Gypsy. The name is just too common! If anyone can help I would be really pleased to hear from you.

    Email: [email protected]

    • ESP Admin says:

      Thanks Jackie, we do remember the Passing Through website, it’s a real shame it’s no longer running but your offer to do look-ups for enquirers will be really useful, thank you. Surrey Heritage are in the process of developing a number of Surrey Gypsy, Romany, Traveller databases including baptisms, census returns, encampments etc but they are a way off being finalised yet. They will be available to freely use online on this website and hopefully help with some of the challenges that this area of family history can present.

  9. Peter Doyle says:

    My mum lived in the warm of derby coach house in woodmanstern lane in wallington does anyone have any pictures of the house yours hopefully Mr p m doyle her maiden name was barnes

  10. Cassie Hayes says:

    Hi everyone,
    I am descended from the Ayres family..Naylor Ayres to be exact, I have found some info on him, he was born in wintney Hartley Hampshire,c 1902; parents Naylor and Urania Ayres, I would love to know more.
    However my mystery is my grandmother, b1904, I have a couple of first names for her, Roseanne may Rose / May Rose, but can’t find either of these with the correct parents. John and caroline.
    May rose was the name on her marriage cert and my mother’s birth certificate, and also on the workhouse entries that I found, but I only knew her as Bluebell, and as far as I am aware she was born and lived in Surrey all her life.
    Thanks in advance for any help

    • Paul ayres says:

      Hi all Ayres followers I’m connected to the Addlestone/Chertsey families which originated from Hampshire I believe my grandfather was Henry Ayres and my great grandfather all so was Henry Ayres if you check out Athaliah on gypsy genealogy I have seen many of the names which you have spoke about

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